How opossums help fight ticks and Lyme disease

Opossums are nocturnal critters that may repel and disgust many, but they could be a important factor in keeping ticks and Lyme disease at bay.

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Mild winters can trigger a tick explosion in the summer and that has outdoor  enthusiasts concerned about the spread of Lyme disease.

While some recommend spraying for ticks in your yard, opossums could be the natural key to warding off ticks.

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, opossums kill around 90 percent of the ticks that attempt to attach and feed on them.

The study notes opossums are particularly good at grooming themselves, which leads them to swallow most of the ticks that attach themselves.

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Based on a study conducted by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, researchers estimated opossums can kill about 5,000 ticks in one season.

"They're net destroyers of ticks," Cary Institute researcher Richard Ostfeld told

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Opossums are known for their ‘play dead’ tactic and that’s why some researchers urge people to avoid hitting opossums apparently lying dead in the road.

Avoiding killing opossums could be a simple way of helping attack the tick population in your area.

"Let's embrace opossums and be thankful for the work they do in taking out ticks," Krystina Snyder wrote in a letter to the Concord Monitor in May.

According to the Dallas-Fort Worth Wildlife Coalition, "Opossums eat fruits, snakes (opossums are immune to all types of snake venom, except that of the coral snake), insects, snails, slugs, eggs, mice, rats, fish, frogs, crayfish, and carrion. If for no other reason than pest control, opossums are great to have around!"

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Opossums are the only marsupial native to North America.